Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The holidays have arrived and I do love to prepare food—heart-warming healthy food. It feels satisfying and well, it just feels like love. And I do this job pretty much 330 days a year (I rely on leftovers to fill in for the other days). Yet, I must say, after preparing Thanksgiving Dinner for four decades—preparing the large tedious turkey dinner with more side dishes than a hooker has high heels—it no longer excites. Rather, it depletes me and the monthly budget, and adds a bit of stress (what size turkey should I get this year, who has the best free-range birds, how many bags of fresh cranberries do I need, how many vegetable casseroles is enough, will the gravy turn out, pumpkin pie or apple or both, what if I don’t have enough funds in my bank account, how many will I feed, on and on). Sometimes I wonder why women often do not get a holiday on a holiday. They are busy working in the kitchen making holiday happen for their family or loved ones. Rituals are lovely and very important, but for those who create them they can be tedious. Maybe there should be a new ritual that a woman who prepares Thanksgiving dinner at her home one year must not be a allowed to do it again for another 5 years—it must be passed around to others before it comes back to roost. Or perhaps after a certain age we just pass the whole mess on to the younger set. I could get behind this wholeheartedly.
Truth be known, I am really not that crazy about turkey. It is fairly high-maintenance poultry to prepare—it requires brining, basting or cooking upside down for a few hours, and even enveloping in some space-age clear bag. Upon consumption, turkey triggers a L-tryptophan reaction leaving one resembling the smokers in a hazy opium den. Perhaps, the football results may further add to the guest's depression. On the other hand, I do adore the mashed sweet potatoes, moist stuffing and pumpkin pie, but not the awful over-eating we all are guilty of on this day. And let’s not forget the grueling clean-up—the challenge of finding the right size plastic container to store the leftovers in the fridge hoping everything fits, and the never ending scrubbing of casserole dishes, pots and pans. I cannot imagine what is must have been like for my mom (or her mom’s generation). These women did not have the helping hand of an electric dishwasher which super cleans all our plates, glasses, goblets and silverware with ease. Another reason for us to be thankful.
I wonder what stuffing a turkey and ourselves has to do with expressing gratitude. Is it the ritual of breaking bread with family and friends? Perhaps it is the gift of the cook to the family—saying here is my enormous spread, come partake and make your selves sick with gluttony and me with exhaustion—that we should be grateful for along with the bountiful gifts that nature (and the food industry) provides us. I suppose I am just questioning things more now. Why do we have to do this every year (in addition to the big Christmas/Chanukah celebration) because our cultural history requires us to? Earlier in my life I was just so dang eager to please, be a good mom, and feed people. Why can’t we take an occasional sabbatical from the rituals? Seriously would the sun not come out tomorrow? Would the Thanksgiving police show up at the door?
I can conjure up only one positive to preparing the big dinner—good old leftovers. Those leftovers finally pay off for all the work up front—all the planning, shopping, washing, preparing, chopping, cutting, sauteing, mashing, whipping, rolling, baking, serving and finally cleaning up. All I had to do after Thursday ended was throw together a hot turkey sandwich with cranberries and gravy for the next few days. That was the leftover blessing. Yum.
I hope everyone enjoys a great Thanksgiving this year and finds good reasons to be grateful. I hope you express gratitude for the cook/s (even if the dinner turns out slightly different from a Norman Rockwell painting). Lastly, if you really don’t feel up to it maybe this year you can take a break and go to a little French restaurant for Thanksgiving instead of hosting the whole affair at home. To be sure, I have witnessed some very happy unstressed people breaking bread at a great local French restaurant in Denver. The cost was less than what one spends at the grocery store and you probably would not miss the preparation and clean-up either. You may miss the leftovers but it would be a good trade. And I promise the sun will come out the next day.